2020 Billion Dollar Disasters
According to NOAA NCEI, 2020 is the sixth consecutive year in which the U.S. has experienced 10 or more billion-dollar weather- and climate-related disasters, compared to the 1980-2019 average of 6.6 events per year. It may take some time to assess the full impact of the 2020 disasters; so far the toll is 188 lives lost and $46.6 billion dollars and counting.
In the midst of the pandemic, tens of thousands of Americans were forced to flee their homes. The American Red Cross reported that it provided over 1.2 million overnight stays to evacuees (quadruple the number provided in an average year) and emergency financial assistance to 11,800 households, primarily in response to wildfires and hurricanes.
Weather-related disasters can result in significant life upheavals that are challenging to quantify such as job loss, relocation, and rupturing of social networks. These impacts can in turn give rise to mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse.
The impacts are often greatest among lower income communities, which are likely to be most vulnerable to disasters through financial insecurity (e.g. access to savings, difficulty qualifying for disaster loans and assistance), housing disparities (e.g. lower rates of home ownership, losses of affordable housing), and more limited access to healthcare insurance.